As promised i want share some of my other images from Akagera National Park and this time i will focus on a couple of gorgeous looking birds. This was my first time out with the 100-400mm and i have to say that i was pretty happy with it. I had been concerned at the extra 100mm i would be losing over the sigma 170-500mm but the gain in IQ is impressive.
This great little bird is a Lilac-Breasted Roller and is one of my favourites. These guys are stunning shades of pink, blue and purple and stand out not only for their colours but also because they tend to sit on top of bushes and tall grass making them great subjects. Like most birds the real key is trying to approach them gently.
And this little guy is a…well i am not so sure what this little guy is…it is definitely a bee-eater and i am pretty sure it is a immature Blue-Cheeked Bee-eater but not 100% certain. If anyone out there that would like to put their neck out then let me know what kind of bee-eater you think this it is.
Anyway this is just a quick one. I’ll put another image share up in a few days.
P.S. Just finished an incredible session with a Rwenzori Three-Horned Chameleon!!! Images to follow…
So on the second weekend that our friend was visiting us in Uganda we asked him what he wanted to see the most and his reply was simply giraffe. Now unfortunately the only giraffe in Uganda are found a long way north of where we stay. Luckily there are found across the border in Rwanda so after the sights of Gisenyi we headed off to Akagera National Park to find some giraffe.
Our entry to the park couldn’t have been any less spectacular, with an incredibly sunrise and herd of iconic zebra.
Now i always advise people to bring binoculars with them. It is simply the easiest and fastest way to spot game and often the only way to spot some animals whose camouflage makes them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Giraffes are a an exact case! Now i cant explain how a herd of over a dozen giraffe can be rendered almost invisible but they can. We surveyed the great northern crater of Akagera, which resembles a mini Ngorongoro, and scanned the tall Acacia that line the rim. Nothing. At the same time my wife managed to spot seventeen giraffe in five minutes with the extra power of the binoculars.
The great thing about the north of Akagera is the ability to drive off-track which allows you to position yourself in perfect light every time. It also allows you to get incredibly close to some of the most magnificent animals on the planet.
Driving off-track also allows you to maneuver and change your position so that the animals never feel intimidated by your presence. This courting couple seemed oblivious to our presence and rather than move closer to them and possibly disrupt their courting we decided to keep our distance and watch them from afar. There is something incredibly elegant yet powerful about giraffes that never fails to keep me awestruck.
So a lot of giraffe photos over the coming days and birds of many colours. There might also be stories of raging bulls and cheeky monkeys thrown in!
We live only half an hour from Rwanda which often means that a trip to Rwanda is quicker and easier than trips to other parts of Uganda.
So with our friend in tow (and another two Canadians we managed to pick up at the border) of we went to Rwanda, and Gisenyi in particular, to see what we could find. Not only did we find a hotel next door to Rwanda’s famous brewery (possibly an ominous sign in hindsight), spectacular views across Lake Kivu, an incredibly rustic hotel, but one of the finest sunsets i may have ever seen.
The picture above is of a set of the many trimarans that sail out into Lake Kivu every sunset to fish and return with the sun the next morning. With three men in each hull, these groups of nine fisherman are an incredible sight as they literally sail into the sun. When there are dozens of trimarans it becomes truly epic in scale. And with a glorious array of clouds and colours in the sky it was truly breathtaking.
An incredible surprise! Unfortunately i had already consumed a few of the brewery’s finest beers and spent most of the time with my mouth open in amasement before i managed to run and grab my camera and get a few shots. This one is my favourite.
This post sees me round off the weekend safari in Queen Elizabeth. The last post detailed the 2 hour extravaganza on the Kazinga Channel and this time i will come up with a couple more shots from the Sunday morning where we climbed up the crater lakes for a sunrise shot and then into the Kasenyi mating grounds for some game viewing.
So the first stop of the day was to climb up to the edge of one of the largest craters and try to get a good sunrise image. First task however was finding the look out point in the dark, and job we only managed to get right at the second attempt! I can’t imagine a better way to wake up in the mornings than with a cup of tea whilst gazing out across the savannah, anticipating the day ahead and having the equatorial sun warm up your bones.
Now that we were fully awake and warmed up we headed off into the Kasenyi Mating Grounds. Kasenyi is famous for two reasons, firstly the Uganda Kob antelopes that strut their stuff and try to look as impressive as possible to all those females wandering past. Each male actually chooses just one spot and spends his days standing in the same spot and looking as handsome as is handsomely possible. Females literally walk through the mating grounds as you would in a shopping mall and choose the male that struts his stuff the best! Secondly, the mating grounds are known for the lions which congregate there to feast and who count on the Kob’s attention being consumed with other priorities! The image below is of two Kobs preparing to lock horns to defend their spot in the mating grounds. It also includes a female in the background who clearly is much more interested in the grass she is eating than in the guys prancing about in front of her. (Note that neither of the three are watching for lions!).
Well on this occasion the Kob seemed to be in the right because there didn’t seem to be any lions around this morning. Well we might have seen an ear! You see someone had spotted an ear and this meant that every tourist vehicle in the entire park descended on one clump of bushes and sat and waited. I have to say that we joined this party. But after half an hour nobody could remember who had actually seen something and nobody really knew what direction to look in.
This is a crazy situation and looking for a more private experience we drove off in the opposite direction. Now, maybe those cars saw a pride of lions emerge just after we left, maybe not. What i do know is that we spent the next three hours driving in some of the most unspoilt and least congested national parks in East Africa and whilst we didn’t get any lion images we did manage to spot a leopard (but not a useable image!), dozens of elephants and thousands of Kob and other antelope. And we didn’t have another car around us for miles.
Remember that a complete set of images from this trip are available on my facebook page.
We had a good friend come to stay last month which was great although it was also at a busy time for me so i couldn’t take the time off i might have hoped. This left us with a window of only two days over the weekend and a lot of driving to get anywhere.
In a desperate bid to get out and take some images with the new gear we made plans to go on safari. But with a five hour drive to the nearest national park we were left with the realisation that to get to a national park might mean only one game drive on the Saturday night and a second one on the Sunday morning before a five hour drive back.
So how much wildlife can you see in such a short space of time and how great an experience can you actually have in such a short and rushed period. Much to my own disbelief the answer is a lot in the first instance and very great in the second.
On Saturday morning we drove five hours to Queen Elizabeth National Park and after a cool and well deserved beer over looking the Mweya Peninsular we settled down for a two hour boat launch long the Kazinga Channel. Now the Kazinga Channel has one of the highest biomass of anywhere in Africa and due to a low channel (perfect for large mammals to cross) it has huge numbers of hippos and elephants. I have never been disappointed with the Kazinga Channel and this time was no exception.
We enjoyed time with a herd of twenty elephant taking a swim, countless hippos bloats (herds or crashes!), crocodile, incredible herds of buffalo, flocks of African Skimmers and even some reclusive Giant Forest Hogs. It is genuinely one of the most satisfying two hours you can spend in Uganda and i fell in love with the Kazinga Channel all over again.
Go over to my Facebook page for a full set of images.
And remember that everyone who joins up to one of our safaris will get there own chance to visit the Kazinga Channel and get the chance to take some incredible images.